“Captain Johnson, welcome to Station Zero. I’m Tia Herron, the mayor of our little city.” The mayor was all smiles.
Gerald tried for friendly and businesslike, as he shook hands. “Gerald Fallon, Federal marshal, FSNA.”
Lawrence Johnson shook hands firmly, and introduced his officers. “We’re here to . . . basically see what sort of mess we’re walking into.”
Tia looked a bit indignant and Gerald chuckled.
“I’m afraid Zero’s Wild West reputation is a bit exaggerated, but perhaps you’d like a tour?” He shrugged, keeping it minimal in zero g. “I’ve only been here a few weeks, but even so the complete lack of shoot outs and brutal assaults has been noticeable.”
Tia Herron nodded. “It can get rowdy . . . and I daresay if your crew gets shore leave it will . . . but just a lecture ahead of time will prevent a lot of trouble.”
Gerald snorted. “Not that your crew is on the same level with the miners coming in, But letting them know that the ladies of negotiable virtue are all in brothels, no street walkers, and any women on the street are hands off, will help.”
They’d all stiffened in offense. Probably faked, they’ve got a crew far from home.
Tia snorted. “Well, the station has the standard three levels. First level we call the Bazaar. Shops, restaurants, bars, and yes, brothels. Prostitution is legal here. Rape is not.
“However, come along and I’ll show you around.” Tia pushed off, floating down the tube, facing backwards so she could still talk to them. “There are apartments on all three levels. Any door that doesn’t have a business sign is probably someone’s home. We expect your men to respect that.”
Gerald followed, with a lot worse aim. “Second Level is the business district, with homes and restaurants. Not rowdy at all. Third level is manufacturing and farms.”
One of the younger officers, Lieutenant Craig Miller swarmed down the lines, keeping within arms reach, but not needing to grab. “So . . . what about all the famous outlaws? I used to love the idea of the Spinner.”
“Tall tales for the most part. Or the exploits of dozens all blamed on one nice bloody sounding name.” Gerald grinned. “And all the miners spin, but even the best have to use their engines, now and then.”
“And you captured a pirate ship?”
“Yes. We’re trying to find the legal owner of the ship, but he hasn’t been seen for years, so I suspect he was killed and his ship taken. Not a matter of him turning pirate. The women who were kidnapped from the shuttle identified the ship as one of the two involved in the attack.”
“Ooo . . . going to keep it?”
“Might. God knows I’m going to need independent transportation.” Gerald grinned suddenly. “Although I find the idea of hitching a ride with the Fleet when you visit Station Fifteen.”
“Do you think there will be a fight?”
“I . . . really doubt it. They’re pirates, not soldiers. If they don’t think they can bluff you, act all nicey-nice and send you on your way, I suspect they’ll run and leave the lower echelons and the sort-of-innocent bystanders behind you.”
“Have they got a place to run to?”
Gerald reached out for a line and boosted himself down the tube.
“Ceres is where the locals think they’ll head. I certainly got the impression that the guy I was introduced to as Benny Morgan, the mayor of Fifteen was friendly with Little Tony Hendricks, the mayor of Ceres.”
“That’s what the people who don’t like him, call him.”
“I’ll have to get you to introduce me to anyone who’s actually met him.”
Gerald nodded, stretched as toe out to shove on a pipe and get himself within reach of a good hand hold, so he could turn and push off to enter the hub feet first. “I’ll ask a couple . . . your best bet for an ID has gone off to mine asteroids. But I doubt he’ll go too far, his eighteen year old daughter lives here—in fact I’ve hired her for my office.”
“Yeah, she knows everyone, knows how everything works, and can explain the local conventions to me. And she’s good at researching and analyzing the results. I take it you’re in intel?” Gerald growled as he realized his was out of reach of the bar at the end of the tube.
“Yeah, it shows doesn’t it.” Miller grabbed the bar, grabbed Gerald and swung his around too, into the rotating ring of the hub.
“Thanks. Looks like the Mayor’s going to toss you guys right into the worst of the Bazaar right off.”
“Red light district?”
“Yep. Mind you, I’m not only married, I brought my wife and kids along with me, so I have no idea of the quality, or lack there of, of the establishments here.”
“Yeah, we had a whole dossier on you. Funny, you don’t look either insane or naïve.”
“Station Fifteen was a real wake up.” Gerald knew he was failing to keep the growl out of his voice.
“I was impressed you got out at all, let alone with the kidnapped women.” Miller raised his eyebrows.
“I requested a data dump of absolutely everything . . . and got nothing. I want to know what the World Council is going to do, and if they’ve been bamboozled en masse by the actual pirates, and if they’re still covering up a lot of the disgraceful history out here. And what they’ll do to keep it covered up.”“Oh . . . we’re going to have to have a long private talk.”